by Stephen Lendman
He died on March 5. Smart money says Obama killed him. His death was very suspicious. A previous article discussed it.
Hopefully forensic evidence will prove what many people believe.
He meant so much to so many. He spoke in language people understood.
He meant what he said. He kept promises made. He championed social democracy. Venezuelans have the real thing.
Progressive Radio News Hour regular James Petras discussed his legacy. He calls him a "21st century renaissance man."
He was "unique." He made a difference. He contributed hugely to advancing humanity. He did so "in the spheres of political economy, ethics and international law and in defining relations between political leaders and citizens."
He cared. He showed it. No one anywhere matched him. He believed popular needs matter more than power. He transformed Venezuela from neoliberal harshness to social democracy.
He was reelected overwhelmingly four times. In 2006, his landslide topped all presidential victories in US history.
Except for the close race in 1812 and 1800 deadlock, Jefferson/Madison Democrat-Republicans dominated US elections. It remained so through 1820.
James Monroe ran virtually unopposed. He won over 80% of the vote. Like Washington, he wasn't elected. He was coronated.
Competitive elections began in 1824. From then to Chavez's 2006 near 63% majority, his victory margin exceeded all US presidents. His popularity was overwhelming. It was so for good reason.
He governed democratically. He engaged Venezuelans responsibly. He "invited comments and criticism," said Petras. He challenged imperial Washington. "You don't fight terrorism with state terrorism," he said. These type comments infuriated Washington.
He abhorred violence and war. He championed peaceful conflict resolution. Straightaway in office he began implementing his vision.
He let Venezuelans decide whether to convene a National Constituent Assembly. At issue was drafting a new constitution. Chavez believed in Bolivarian change.
Venezuelans agreed. They approved overwhelmingly. Three months later, National Assembly elections followed. Chavistas won 95% of the seats.
They drafted a Bolivarian constitution. A second referendum followed. Venezuelans again overwhelmingly approved. Historic provisions became law.
No constitution anywhere matches it. It's a living document. Venezuelans cherish it. It shames America's.
Articles 83 - 85 mandate quality healthcare. It's called a "fundamental social right and...responsibility of the state...to guarantee it...to improve the quality of life and common welfare."
It established national public health. It's proscribed from being privatized.
Other provisions mandate participatory democracy, quality education to the highest levels, free speech, indigenous rights, housing assistance, social security pensions and more.
Articles 166 - 192 established citizen assemblies. They constitute grassroots participatory democracy. So do thousands of communal councils. Over 30,000 exist. They empower local citizens.
Ordinary people elect their own representatives. They do so throughout the country. What they say matters. They contribute to Bolivarian fairness.
The Law of Communal Councils "represent(s) the means through which the organized masses can take over the direct administration of the policies and projects that are created in response to the needs and aspirations of the communities, in the construction of a fair and just society."
Social missions were established. Ordinary Venezuelans benefit enormously. Innovative programs include healthcare, education, food, housing, land reform, job training, micro-credit, and more.
Thousands of worker cooperatives exist. Ordinary Venezuelans manage them. Instead of a job, they're owners. They benefit from profits earned.
At the same time, Chavez championed worker rights. He encouraged trade unionism. America wages war on labor. At issue is destroying decades of hard won rights. Obama's in the forefront doing so.
Chavez instilled "solidarity and mutual support," said Petras. He changed Venezuela's power balance. He shifted it from ruling elites and corrupt politicians to ordinary people.
Petras said his greatest contribution perhaps was believing "that many of the most challenging contemporary political and economic problems can be successfully resolved."
Nothing is more challenging than transforming longstanding money power-run states to socially democratic ones. Chavez "largely succeeded," said Petras.
He radically changed Venezuela progressively. His redistributive policies work. He used the nation's oil wealth responsibly.
He increased social spending over 60%. FY 2013 spending is budgeted to rise another one-third. Income inequality is Latin America's lowest. Before Chavez, it was the highest.
Poverty fell from 60% to 26%. Extreme poverty decreased from over 16% to 7%.
He grew the economy impressively. Economic growth in 2011 was 4.8%. In 2012, it was 5.6%. Forecasts estimate 6% in 2013.
Nationalized oil, telecommunications, electricity, cement, steel, and other sectors let Venezuela regain economic sovereignty.
Chavez created jobs. Unemployment dropped from 14.5% to 6.4%. Venezuelans receive Latin America's highest minimum wage.
Women without income and disabled people get 60% of minimum wage support.
Chavez withdrew Venezuela from IMF/World Bank debt peonage. The nation's debt is about 20% of GDP. America's exceeds 100%. It rises exponentially annually.
Child mortality fell from 20 per 1,000 to 10. Child malnutrition declined from 21% to less then 3%. Five million children get free meals in school. Life expectancy rose from 72.2 to 74.3.
Around 95% of Venezuelans have access to safe drinking water. Pre-Chavez, it was 82%.
Hundreds of thousands of new homes were built. Commerce, communications, construction, and manufacturing grew impressively. Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves.
Around 2.5 million acres of land were returned to aboriginal people. About 7.5 million overall were redistributed. Doing so lets tens of thousands of farmers own their own land.
Chavez eradicated illiteracy. Doing so shames America. Around 32 million Americans can't read. Forty-eight million do so below a fifth grade level. Computer and math skills are sorely lacking.
Inner city schools don't teach. Two-thirds of students can't read proficiently. One in four children grow up unable to read.
America is the only OECD country where the current generation is worse off than previous ones. Prioritizing war and corporate favoritism explains why.
Venezuelan democracy is the world's best. It's real. It's unmatched. Its elections are open, free and fair. Venezuelans are automatically enfranchised at birth.
Its Law of Social Responsibility affirms free expression without censorship, respect for human rights, Venezuelan cultural values, a balance between public duties and private rights, and citizen participation in national affairs.
Chavez championed fair trade. ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) reflects it. It's comprehensive, bold and innovative. It's mutually beneficial. It's polar opposite NAFTA, FTAA, and one-way bilateral agreements.
It's based on complementarity (not competition), solidarity (not domination), cooperation (not exploitation) and respect for each nation's sovereignty. It's free from the control of other nations and large corporations.
Venezuela joined with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay in establishing Mercosur. It hopes doing so will strengthen ALBA.
In December 2006, Chavez proposed establishing a Bank of the South (Banco del Sur). Doing so is an alternative to Western debt slavery.
A November 2007 summit launched it. In September 2009, it was established. Its members include Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay. Plans are to increase initial capitalization.
Member countries pledge to contribute. Full operations are expected to begin later this year. At issue is representing the needs of the South and contributing to its development.
Chavez urged Latin American integration. UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) was another initiative.
Members include Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay (suspended after its 2012 coup), Chile, Guyana, and Suriname.
Petrocaribe lets most Caribbean states buy Venezuelan oil on preferential terms.
Chavez proved challenging neoliberalism works. Petras calls doing so a major 21st century "breakthrough." His legacy is "multi-faceted. His contributions are original, theoretical and practical."
They matter. They're "universally relevant." They work. Chavismo lives! Bolivarianism's institutionalized!
Chavez was "a complete political leader," said Petras. His stature is unmatched. He's the most important figure of our time. What he achieved won't die.
Chavistas promise to carry the torch. Preserving and strengthening Bolivarian achievements matter most.
A Final Comment
On March 5, Chavez died. His body lay in half open coffin. It was on display in Caracas' Fuerte Tiuna Military Academy. Over five million Venezuelans queued for hours.
They came to honor him. They paid their last respects. They said farewell.
On March 15, 10 days of official mourning ended. Hundreds of thousands of red-shirted Chavistas filled Caracas streets.
A formal procession followed. Chavez's body was transferred to the 4th February Museum of Military History (Barracks on the Mountain). He'll remain there for now.
It's where Chavez launched his February 4, 1992 revolt against neoliberal harshness. Years later he succeeded.
Regional leaders paid their last respects. Acting President Nicolas Maduro said:
"Mission accomplished Comandante! Fully accomplished: with pain, with sacrifice, not even sickness stopping him. Nothing stopped him, and no one is going to stop our people."
Viva Chavez! Millions of Venezuelans resolve never to let his legacy die. They're courageous. They'll put their bodies on the line to assure it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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